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Saleh Kashefi

Saleh Kashef
Young Iranian director Salef Kashefi creates a poetic diary out of pieces of his life in Paris. Graceful young faces filmed ever so tenderly, the golden radiance of religious paintings, trivialities of a disjointed daily life overtaken by a gnawing sadness… Each shot is a note whose vibrancy is only enhanced by the sound material, as a ghostly double, made of thick silences and repetitive motifs, melodic apparitions and echoes. Development is the translation on film of a melancholy that is sensitively distilled from the bottom of a bathtub. (Claire Lasolle)

Interview with Saleh Kashefi

Your film is composed of heterogeneous material, centered on friendly faces, which seem to have been filmed over time. Can you tell us about the writing of the film? Who are these people?

This film was done in less than a week actually, from the very first start of the idea to the end of the shooting. I was staying at La Residence du Festival de Cannes in Paris from October 2020 to February 2021 to develop my first feature film. I wasn’t in a very good place in my mind, and was feeling deeply depressed and sad. It was the second time I came to Europe, I came with big expectations and was faced with the lockdown and the curfew. I was 21 and lonely. I wanted to make a film in Paris before leaving but I hadn’t met anyone or made any friends except my fellow residents with whom we became a family. I was madly in love with a lady, very obsessed with this person in a very unhealthy way. This film is basically about that period of my life.
I posted an ad on this website called Cineaste.org and said that I was looking for actors willing to work for free for a completely improvised film without any budget. I thought I would get a maximum of 10 emails but ended up with 125 emails of actors who wanted to work with me. It was during lockdown and people really wanted to do something and get out of their room. So I met a couple of them and I chose the three actors. I had to get to know them very fast because I was leaving Paris in a week. And my films all completely depend on the actors and the characters. I mostly work with non-actors so they have to bring a lot of themselves into the film but this time I did this with the actors. I asked them about their life story, their family, friends, love life and how they were feeling at that moment during the lockdown. After each meeting I wrote some notes for myself based on what they told me. The film didn’t have any script. It was only two papers, which had about 30 words written on it. Then I just scheduled days with each of the actors and then we just saw what we could do that day. They all had no idea what was going on but they were all kind enough to trust me and we just enjoyed our time together. A lot of the scenes are shot in my own room and in the residency.

What are the choices that guided the editing of the images?

I just edited each scene individually and then I put away many of them that I didn’t like and then tried to make some kind of structure out of it by putting the scenes together. The editing was very easy and fast, just like the shooting, it was spanned over a long time, a year maybe, but it took just a couple of days in total.

The sound editing is very singular, made up of silences, camera manipulation noises, footsteps… which sometimes operate out of sync with the image. How did you conceive the sound work?

While shooting this film, I didn’t have any sound recorder. In the few scenes where the characters speak, we recorded it with my phone. Since the beginning, I had this idea of working with a foley artist to remake all the sounds of the film but never could find someone that would do it for free. So I ended up doing it in a very low-fi way while editing, just to make myself feel the scene a little more, but then I ended up using the same sound channel for the final version.

At the heart of Development, you film the inscription of an intimate declaration written in Farsi on a mirror, which provides a key to the film. Why did you choose to include this statement ?

This statement was essential because this film was made by a Saleh and was exported by another Saleh later. After I finished shooting, I went back to Tehran right away and then in the first weeks when I was still a bit excited about this film, I edited some scenes. But then, very quickly I fell in love with different people and my life and mood changed so much that in less than a month, when I watched the footage of this film, I felt very far from it. As if this film was made by someone else. I ended up ignoring this film for a long time. I made many other films before finishing editing this one. But as the actors kept asking me about it, I felt I had a responsibility to them and also to my past self to finish this film in whatever way possible.
I just put all the scenes together in a day and added that part with the titles to make it clear for myself and the others that I also didn’t really understand what was going on in this film. I don’t know who made it. He is a stranger to me.
Because this film was made so spontaneously and without any judgment or explanations to the others, it was completely true from the heart. And when an artwork is made in such a way, it’s only representative of that moment. Just like a painting or photography or a piece of music that is done by the artist alone in his room when he is having a very strong feeling. Nowadays, it is not so easy to experiment, to try, to take the risk of making mistakes, in front of the public as well as in front of those who commit themselves to your side. The advantage of making films alone and without money is still to take these risks, to make attempts without having to explain them or feel responsible. If no one sees them, well, that’s that. But to suddenly have a festival like FID select it is a strange and happy event. In all honesty, this film belongs to a page of my life I have turned, that is difficult to remember. It is therefore difficult and painful for me to watch it from beginning to end. And today, I feel strange answering these questions. But it’s important not to make judgements about your past. To accept it and not to censor it in any way.

Interviewed by Claire Lasolle

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Technical sheet

France / 2022 / Colour / 58’

Original version : french, persian
Subtitles : english
Script : Saleh Kashefi
Photography : Saleh Kashefi
Editing : Saleh Kashefi
Sound : Saleh Kashefi
With : Alexandre Desane, Baya Massamba-wa, Axel Joubert
Production : Saleh Kashefi (The world is ending and I’m making my films).
Selective Filmography : These Fruits are still alive, 2021
Further than this, is where everyone makes fun of, 2021
Leaving Here and Her, 2021.